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Western Oregon scrimmage features five Lions

It seems the Western Oregon University football team is on the verge of developing a talent pipeline with the high school programs in Lake Oswego and West Linn.

That's one of the main reasons why Western Oregon has held a spring scrimmage at Lake Oswego High School each of the last two years. That included last Saturday's event, which drew a surprisingly large crowd.

Those fans got a chance to see J.T. Coury of Lake Oswego and Sean Fullerton, Willy Schlitt, Brendan Pitts, Nick Kalantari and Phil Mamula - all of West Linn - playing in familiar territory.

'It's not really weird playing here again. The weird thing is wearing red,' said Coury, who wore the Lakers' blue and white while playing at the Lake Oswego district stadium during his high school career.

'But I like coming back. It's always fun to see everyone that comes to the scrimmages,' Coury added.

Like most spring scrimmages, last Saturday's event only loosely resembled an actual football game. But it was clear that the Wolves will have a high-powered offense with senior quarterback Mark Thorson of Sandy expected to have a banner season.

Thorson threw for 23 touchdowns last year and he's hoping to chalk up even more this time around. That's good news for players like Fullerton, who is expected to be a starting wide receiver next season, and Coury, who could be the top reserve at that position.

Fullerton was a star at West Linn and Coury was part of one of the best receiving corps in the state when Lake Oswego advanced to the state title game in 2004. But Western is loaded with excellent receivers, so both have had their work cut out for them just finding their niche with the Wolves.

Amazingly, Western was the only school that recruited Fullerton, who might now be the Wolves' second-best receiver behind Isaiah Smith of Roseburg.

'When I came in I did really well (the first season),' Fullerton said. 'Myself, J.T. and Isaiah are all kind of fast learners. That kind of put of us ahead of all of the freshmen.'

Fullerton and Coury, who are now roommates, both redshirted their first year at Western Oregon and will be sophomores this season. So the best is definitely still ahead of them.

With Thorson progressing nicely, this could be a breakthrough season for the Wolves, who went 6-4 last season.

'I think we have more depth than last year, especially at the receiver position,' Fullerton said. 'If we get in the playoffs, then it's anybody's chance.'

Also vying for playing time at receiver will be Pitts, who was the best running back in the Three Rivers League during his senior year in high school.

Then there's Mamula, who is the oldest player on Western's roster at 29 years of age. He saw a fair amount of playing time last year as a sophomore.

Meanwhile, Kalantari will fight for the backup spot to Thorson after redshirting last year. He's one of six quarterbacks on the roster but he got the third-most reps during last Saturday's scrimmage.

The only defensive player in the local contingent was Schlitt, who has seemingly played everywhere since first donning the football pads. In high school, he played defensive line, center and tight end and then he started out as a fullback at Western. Now, he's a nose tackle and he could see a substantial amount of playing this fall as a redshirt sophomore.

'It's pretty fun,' the 260-pound Schlitt said of his opportunity for playing time. 'I'm pretty small compared to all of the other guys, but I like getting in there and hitting.'

When Schlitt saw action on Saturday, the offense often had trouble running up the middle.

'They can't move me. They can't drive me off the ball, because I'm short,' Schlitt said with a chuckle.